PBK Alpha of Pennsylvania Chapter History

(Third Revision)


*In 1986, Warren J. Gates, Robert Coleman Professor Emeritus of History, compiled a Centennial Handbook for the chapter. Included in this was an updated version of his history of the first hundred years of the chapter. It is reproduced below without additions or changes.


With the formation of the National Council of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa in 1883 the 107 year-old order created a central authority with exclusive power to issue charters. On September 5, 1886, at its next triennial meeting in Saratoga Springs, N. Y., the National Council of the United Chapters authorized establishment of a chapter at Dickinson.

Three members of PBK, Lahman F. Bower, Wesleyan, 1879; Aaron Rittenhouse, Wesleyan, 1861; and Henry C. Whiting, Union 1867, were designated to organize the chapter; all of them then held staff connections with the College. Bower was at that time headmaster of the preparatory school; Rittenhouse and Whiting were on the college faculty.

Here, as at the other two institutions where new chapters were authorized action to organize was deferred until April 1887. Dickinson's charter members met April 13th. This preceded similar steps at Lafayette by a margin of two days and at Rochester by five days. Although the margin was close, Dickinson fortuitously became not only the Alpha of Pennsylvania but also the holder of the first charter issued by the United Chapters. Throughout its history the Dickinson chapter has felt that its primacy conferred distinction and an obligation for leadership.

At the first chapter meeting, with Professor Whiting presiding, the three charter member selected all of their collegiate colleagues (seven) and William K. Dare '83, who, like Bower, was at the preparatory school, to membership. Henry M. Harman, professor of Greek, oldest member of the staff, and something of a conservative, declined membership. On April 19 and 23, the other electees were initiated, a constitution and by-laws adopted, and a committee to secure a commencement speaker chosen. The first officers were Professor Whiting, president; Prof. Charles F. Himes, vice-president; and Mr. Bower, secretary.

The original constitutional provisions governing qualifications and restrictions on membership read:

1. Graduates of the College of years previous to 1887 and of high standing in their class, not exceeding one-fourth of any class, and men of eminence in literature, science, or professional attainments shall be eligible to membership.

2. Members from the graduating class, not exceeding one third of the class pursuing a four year course, and from the one-third of that number having the highest standing in any of the four year courses of study for a degree shall be eligible.

Applying these formulas, in June the chapter elected eight undergraduates in cursu and 22 alumni. The students and most of the honorary and alumnus members were initiated at once, using the form of initiation received by the Union College chapter in 1817. The new members pledged that they would "approve themselves worthy members by encouraging Friendship, Morality and Literature."

In its early years this chapter, like recently established chapters on other campuses, elected numerous honorary and alumnus members. The rationale was to provide a working base of members, recognize persons who had not had an opportunity to qualify for election, in cursu, and have a membership roll somewhat more numerically comparable to those of the older chapters.

During the first decade, 1887-1896, 21 were elected to honorary membership (41 percent of the total of all such elections) and 69 alumnus members (a full 50 percent of all such elections). Although their numbers declined somewhat during the second decade, both categories were generously used. Those elections account for 25.5 percent of honorary elections and 23.5 percent of alumnus elections. Collectively 66.6 percent of honorary elections and an even more substantial 74.3 percent of alumnus elections occurred between 1887 and 1906.

With the prestige of Phi Beta Kappa nationally rising, pressure to secure the coveted key apparently mounted, and Pennsylvania Alpha responded on its own terms. In 1902 a minute concerning honorary members was entered "exhorting members to construe the clause providing for membership other than graduates with great conservatism and in strict accordance with the language of the constitution." Inspection of the record of honorary elections shows a marked decline commencing at that time. It rendered less urgent the adoption in 1910 of a numerical cap of three alumnus elections per year. The new rule also provided that nominations for honorary and alumnus memberships be reviewed and reported by a committee before consideration at the annual meeting. Soon thereafter the rules were further strengthened by requiring concurrence of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at an honorary nominee's undergraduate institution, if such a chapter existed.

Elections of faculty colleagues have swelled the ranks of both honorary and alumnus members. Prior to 1900 college faculty regularly were elected to membership when they joined the staff. Exceptions to this include Lyman J. Muchmore, the first physical culture appointee, whose election was delayed for several years, and persons who were presumed to be in temporary positions. Collectively 19.6 percent of all honorary electees and 11 percent of alumni elected by the chapter have been faculty.

The frequency of all alumnus elections declined by the turn of the century for several reasons. First, the initial desire to create a viable chapter had been satisfied. Second, for those graduating in 1887 and thereafter, in cursu election had been available; and it was more difficult to justify alumni elections. Third, as chapter historians of the 1930s noted, the United Chapters was urging on all its locals caution concerning both categories. Alpha's agreement is evident in the declining frequency of such elections.

Yet, although seldom exercised in the post World War II years, the options were retained in a 1972 revision of the constitution and by-laws. That redaction permitted two negative votes to block an alumnus election and a single negative to prevent an honorary election. Since this constitution contained provisions which eliminated the black ball in in cursu elections, the provisions regarding negative ballots in honorary and alumnus elections reflect intentional conservatism regarding those membership categories. Current limitations further restrict honorary elections to two per biennium while the maximum for alumnus elections is two per year and not more than four per triennium.


Incidence of Membership by Decades, 1887-1986

 Decade  Male In Cursu Female in Cursu  Total in Cursu  Alumnus  Honorary  Total 

1887-1896

58

11

69

69

21

159

1897-1906

89

22

111

32

13

156

1907-1916

44

41

85

7

5

97

1917-1926

41

53

94

7

7

108

1927-1936

81

42

123

5

1

129

1937-1946

61

45

106

7

3

116

1947-1956

86

48

134

7

1

142

1957-1966

62

70

132

1

133

1967-1976

169

154

323

1

324

1977-1986

207

201

408

408

Total

898

687

1,585

136

51

1,772






Numbers elected by decades reflect both election criteria and the changing size of graduating classes.

Although by virtue of its charter the chapter has autonomy in setting criteria for in cursu elections, its practices have closely mirrored norms recommended or required by the United Chapters for more recently created locals. During the first four years one-third of each graduating class was elected to membership. But in 1891 the upper limit was changed to one-fourth, thus voluntarily complying with the 1889 guideline of the United Chapters. In 1891, too, the election of students in cursu became a stated prerogative of the faculty component of the chapter, and so it remained for 80-plus years. Increases in the class standings required for eligibility successively set limits of one-fifth in 1902 and one-seventh in 1906.

In 1934 the chapter set the limit at 10 percent, with an additional discretionary 2 percent in years found to be exceptional. Since that date, the 10 percent norm has prevailed, and the formula for exceptional years has been increased, but only to 2.5 percent. This is more conservative than the national's permissible five percent for exceptional years. Once brought into conformity, standards have been remarkably constant and have been adapted with grace and equity to changes in grading systems, shifts in institutional size, increases in the complexity of academic programs, and frequency of student enrollment in off-campus programs.

Women were admitted to Dickinson in 1884, and the chapter at its second election found that two had qualified for consideration. Following precedents of other chapters, which had been accepted in substance by the United Chapters, the women candidates were elected without recorded dissent or discussion of the precedents for such action. Almost two decades later, when what appears to have been Dickinson's first black graduate qualified for PBK, he too was elected without hesitation.

Yet, despite these liberal measures and the refusal in 1909 to adopt sex-based quotas noted below, there is conflicting evidence concerning the chapter's attitude toward women. In 1900 under the sponsorship of the United Chapters a PBK Handbook and Address Catalog was published. There rosters of chapters at other coeducational institutions routinely list female as well as male members. But the Dickinson roster contains no women, even though at that time 11 had been elected. It also omits 17 males elected in cursu while listing 39 undergraduate electees as well as 45 honorary or alumnus members of the Chapter. The reason for omission of any names is unclear.

On another front, close inspection of the Roster of Members provided in this handbook will show no women elected honorary or alumnus members. Because the minutes are silent on nominations which failed, it cannot be established whether any women were considered but failed of election in these categories. Before rushing to judgment about intentional or inadvertent sex discrimination, however, we must include in our evidence other actions of the chapter. Between 1905 and 1909 both the absolute numbers of women elected and the proportion of women among the electees rose. In 1908 six women and only two men were chosen while in 1909 seven women and four men were elected. Having reason to anticipate continuing elections of a higher proportion of women than of men, the newly created Student Senate (then an instrument speaking for males exclusively) petitioned the College faculty requesting that there be separate quotas for males and females set, so that the same proportion of each sex would be elected. The faculty referred the request to the chapter but warned the senate that the PBK constitution would govern. The chapter rejected the concept by adopting Professor McIntire's motion:

Whereas the request presented is incompatible with the purposes, the genius and the constitution of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the Alpha chapter finds it impossible to comply with the request.

The next elections picked seven women and 11 men, obviously far from the gender ratio in the predominantly male graduating class. Decades later, at a time of heightened women's consciousness, another kind of question arose about discrimination in chapter practices. For simplicity and reflecting general preferences, the secretaries had regularly ordered one size of key for men and a smaller size for women. But in 1973 discovery of this difference led to demands that initiates be able to choose whatever size and quality of key they desired and could finance. Administrative convenience quickly gave way to principle.

Residency requirements have reflected both the national's expectations and Dickinson's evolving institutional practices. Initially only students in four-year programs were considered. But, when transfer students began to qualify for graduation, it became necessary to develop residency requirements. These were intended to guarantee that students whose entire academic careers had been at Dickinson would be considered on a basis at least as advantageous, but not more advantageous, as that of transfer students or of Dickinson students whose records included periods of study off-campus.

A Chinese student, resident only in academic 1936-37, was graduated with Latin honors and PBK. This instance led the chapter to state a residency requirement in 1938. The by-law set a three-year norm but explicitly provided in exceptional cases for consideration by a special committee. If an exception was recommended, however, the by-law directed that the committee consider the records of all candidates for the same period of time.

In 1947, 1948 and 1949 foreign students (three from New Zealand and one each from Germany, China, Holland and Scandinavia) won graduation honors and PBK keys for a single academic year's work. This time, however, delegates to the 1950 Triennial returned with warnings that the United Chapters objected to elections based on less than two years' work, that the model constitution carried a two-year stipulation, and that continuation of one-year elections would be criticized by other chapters. Thereafter a two-year residency prevailed, while three or more years was the norm. The move toward conformity not only avoided controversy but also possibly reflects some change in the quality of performance by foreign students in the 50s as well as an end to exceptions by the College to a two-year residency requirement for degree candidates.

Changes, beginning in the 50s and mounting as the 60s and 70s proceeded, substantially increased the diversity of student records being considered and complicated the establishment of a comparable basis for evaluation of students. First, students now frequently participated in off-campus options such as the Washington Semester, Dickinson's Bologna program, and other foreign study opportunities. Records reporting these valuable learning experiences deserved consideration but varied widely as to format and method of recording qualitative evaluations.

Dickinson's adoption of Pass/Fail and Credit/No Credit options and the deferred assignment of grades for honors and independent research projects compounded the interpretive challenges which the chapter faced. In search of answers to the dilemmas these innovations posed as well as to the phenomenon commonly denominated "grade inflation," the chapter in 1972 created a Committee on Scholarship, i.e. on in cursu elections. Its members included three elected faculty and the secretary ex officio.

This committee was charged with assembling and reviewing records of eligible students, nominating candidates, and alerting electors to significant aspects of individual records. At each election, the committee advises the chapter on the number of candidates to be considered, identifies the cumulative average which applies (an average may be proposed which is higher than that mandated in the by-laws), and reports how far such elections go to fill the 10 percent or 12.5 percent quota.

Committee recommended by-law changes established a minimum number of graded courses necessary to qualify for election at the end of the junior year or for mid-senior year elections. These became effective in 1972. In order to facilitate consideration of each student record, the committee, with cooperation of the registrar, has since 1972 used an overhead projector to present the Dickinson transcript, supplemented by records of work at other institutions.

Timely chapter responses to changing conditions, plus a tendency of the College to move more conservatively in matters of grading systems and graduation requirements, have minimized the disruptive consequences of the academic ferment and rapidly changing systems of academic evaluation endemic to the past two decades.

Preceding the constitutional revisions of 1972 and the creation of the Committee on Scholarship, the chapter was represented at a regional conference in New York City on "problems of election standards in this time of changing symbolism in college records." Delegates to the Triennial Council later that year heard President Bentley Glass's warnings about obsolescence of electoral criteria. Heeding these external warnings, as well as local concerns to increase equity in elections and for responsible participation by undergraduates in elections and other business, changes chronicled previously or set forth hereafter were implemented. Two considerations in electoral practices have received attention and generated some degree of internal differences.

First, practices in interpreting transfer credits have varied from year to year or even from meeting to meeting depending on who constituted the quorum. At one extreme has been the view that external transcripts should become a basis for recomputing the grade point average so that all students would be considered on the same quantum of academic work whether at Dickinson or elsewhere. At the other extreme the position has been taken that qualitative comparability cannot be established and that transcripts, at best, provide only impressionistic insights as to the components of individual programs taken elsewhere.

Despite some reservations in evaluating the quality of work in off-campus programs and for transfer students, the chapter has gone beyond College practices in its search for comparability in records of students. Although exempted by its 19th century foundations from the United Chapters' "Stipulations Concerning Eligibility for Membership in cursu," Pennsylvania Alpha acknowledges a moral obligation to take cognizance of the criteria which the guidelines enjoin concerning "breadth consistent with liberal education."

Conventionally the explicit requirements that candidates have demonstrated proficiency in foreign language and in math had been considered as satisfied by Dickinson's distribution requirements concerning language and work in the natural sciences. The Nisbet Scholars Program in 1978, however, exempted participating scholars from the stated requirements and substituted for them a self-designed "liberal arts program of study." Although many Nisbets' programs reveal prima facie evidence of work in language and literature and in the social and natural sciences, other students seem to concentrate in one or two areas and may not have experienced at the college level courses in the sciences and/or foreign languages. In considering such cases the chapter for nearly a decade has faced numerous dilemmas.

Beginning in 1980 letters have been solicited from potential candidates rationalizing their programs as compared with criteria set forth by the United Chapters and Dickinson's distribution requirements. The Scholarship Committee utilizes information there presented in interpreting the academic record of the particular Nisbet candidate. On occasion it reads the entire letter to the elective body. But logistics, communications difficulties, non response by students within time deadlines, or ambiguities in their responses can prevent access to desired information. Also divergence of views among electors, as to what the range of acceptable alternatives may be, creates difficulties.

Scrutiny and discussion of Nisbet Scholar Records has also caused members to raise questions concerning the records of non-Nisbets whose work in distribution courses has been only in introductory courses, whose course work seems overly specialized, or whose program in the major seems to lack depth. After a decade of effort, dissatisfaction with election practices remains and engenders a steady stream of suggested remedies.

The role of students in chapter affairs, which was minimal for 85 years, expanded significantly in the 1970s. Because the chapter initially adopted the practice of considering students for election only at the time of their graduation, there was not during the formative years an undergraduate component of the chapter in residence. Consequently, at Dickinson, as at other chapters where this condition prevailed, the immediate chapter for elections consisted only of faculty. Only at the annual meeting were returning members or new electees involved in the conduct of business and then briefly.

Although election of students on the basis of junior standing was investigated early in the 1890s, the proposal was not perfected then. In the early 1920s, it was recognized that mid senior year elections would provide an undergraduate component on the campus and that other chapters elected a portion of their class at this point. Such elections began in 1924. By that time faculty conduct of elections, and incidentally of much other chapter business, was so well established as not to be questioned. Even the introduction of elections based on junior standing in 1957 failed to bring the possibility of student participation elections of undergraduates under active discussion.

The absence of such discussion is surprising. Only two years previously, the faculty component had successfully ended exclusion from the annual meeting of undergraduates, elected and initiated previously, until after recommendations of the committee on honorary and alumnus memberships had been heard and voting completed on any nominees. The faculty then argued that such students were full members and that their exclusion contravened the by-laws. Yet so strongly entrenched was local practice that, even during the wave of student rights activism of the late 60s and early 70s, the exclusive prerogative of the faculty component to elect members in cursu, a right dating from 1891, was not challenged.

Change on this front came only in 1972 under President Frederick Ferre, and then so subtly as to leave only inferential evidence in chapter records of the motives involved. In a constitutional revision of that year, power to conduct business, other than in the annual meeting was placed in the hands of resident members. They were defined as the associate members of the chapter and the student members in residence at the time of such meetings. The quorum was modified and a provision included that for purposes of election one half of the associate members must be present. Students now were eligible to participate in elections.

Two factors explain the non controversial extension of the right to elect. First, student roles on college committees and presence with voice but not vote in the faculty meeting were well established by this time. Second, with rising grade point averages, projections of grade trends revealed that the chapter would soon be unable to elect all undergraduates who met the long standing minimum average for election. Concerned about increasing difficulty in achieving equity between students in elections, many faculty members concluded that openness was the best means of demonstrating good faith and collegiality.

Student participation on the Committee on Scholarship was considered and even briefly required by the 1972 motion reactivating the committee. But no junior elect was appointed to the committee in the fall of 1972. The by-law revision adopted in 1973 provides for election of three faculty and makes no reference to a student component for the committee. Even so, student participation in elections affords undergraduate members a role far beyond that granted by most chapters.

From the early years to the present the Alpha chapter has attempted to secure an undergraduate chapter presence on campus. This motivated the examination of junior year elections in the 1890s. It was a major consideration in the move in the 1920s to elect at mid-senior year as well as in the addition of junior elections in 1958. Although residency requirements and stipulations requiring specific numbers of courses carrying letter grades developed in the 1960s and 1970s, care was taken to elect viable numbers at both the junior and mid-senior year points so that the PBK undergraduate contingent would continue.

President Bruce Andrews (1979-1981) instituted by-law changes which substantially increased the proportion of the class elected at mid-senior year for two reasons. Most important was the desire to give a high proportion of electees an opportunity to participate in activities of the chapter. Second, an accelerated academic calendar made elections, in the short time between computation of the grades of graduating seniors and commencement, difficult to accomplish. Here there was a trade-off between maintenance of the distinction conferred by mid-year election and an expanded undergraduate member campus presence. The option was for the latter.

The presence and role of the Dickinson chapter has been expressed not merely through recognition of individual accomplishment but by continuing contributions to the intellectual tone and amenities of the academic community. In the early years it joined the literary societies in selecting a commencement orator. As early as 1898 it was contributing substantially to the book fund of the library and for 20 years after the establishment of the Library Guild in 1903 it provided $25 or more annually toward the guild's current expenses.

Following establishment of The American Scholar in 1932, the chapter for many years paid for the library's subscription to the journal. From the 1950s until recently, junior and mid senior year electees received complimentary or partly subsidized subscriptions for the year of their election. Before and after World War II, the chapter provided awards for academic achievement by fraternity, sorority, and independent student groups.

When the chapter assumed the role of sponsor for what had previously been an Inter fraternity Council project, it set as a condition that independent student groups as well as chapters of national fraternities and sororities should be eligible. Initially the award consisted of a loving cup which went to the house having the highest academic average for the year. In 1957 the cup was replaced by plaques. Plaques were also offered to the pledge components of the men's and women's social groups which had the highest average for the semester.

After mid-senior year elections began in 1924, a new dimension giving prominence to scholarly endeavors evolved. For several years the president of the College and the faculty had held an annual reception recognizing students who had achieved an "A" average. Shortly, the mid-year elections and the broader scholar recognitions were articulated in the "A" Dinner. From 1926 to 1970, "A'' Dinners honored newly initiated wearers of the key and the group of students most likely to become candidates for election. The principal speaker at the black tie affair, often himself a PBK whose presence had been secured through initiatives of the chapter, spoke on a scholarly topic, thus presenting a role model and encouragement to intellectual endeavor.

This gracious occasion ultimately fell victim to rising costs, increased size of faculty and student body, and the number of students qualifying for invitation. In recent years a dinner honoring mid-year initiates and relying on a local speaker has revived in modified form the long standing "A" Dinner tradition.

Alpha of Pennsylvania has sought means to enhance the quality of the academic experience of the college community. In the 20s, 30s, and post-war 40s, it took initiatives to arrange dinner meetings with counterpart chapters at Franklin and Marshall and Gettysburg. In some years not merely PBKs but all faculty of the three schools were invited. In the early decades of this century, successive chairmen of a committee termed the Committee on Scholarship Promotion regularly reported to the annual meeting evidence of scholarly activity. Their reports comment on lecturers brought in, changes in grading systems, recognition received by faculty, etc. These reports indicate that the chapter regarded, as part of its function, the promotion of scholarship and education of alumni as to positive developments at the College.

In one or more instances the chapter provided small scholarship stipends to needy students entering graduate programs. In the 70s, it contributed $100 to the Humanities Fund. Chapter sponsorship of open forums in which faculty returning from sabbatical leaves reported on their work and experiences provided a part of the precedent from which the more broadly based Wednesday noon discussions grew. Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars regularly appear on those programs in one of their public appearances. Other initiatives have been less productive. Efforts to revive the literary societies in 1949 and, in 1981, to resume publication of the John Dickinson Review came to naught.

The PBK Visiting Scholar Program is the most successful continuing contribution of the chapter to campus intellectual exchange. In 29 of the 31 years during which the program has existed, Visiting Scholars have been scheduled for Dickinson. Planned and financially supported cooperatively by the national, the local chapter, and academic departments or administrative officers of the College, these three-day residences by distinguished scholars have provided public lectures, classroom experiences, and opportunities for personal interaction with the visitors, and often with their spouses as well.

The list of scholars and their public lecture topics, q.v., witness to the range of interests addressed and give some hint of the spectrum of departments and programs which have joined in utilizing the talents of the Visiting Scholars. The 1986 Visiting Scholar, Professor Wolfgang, was himself elected as an undergraduate to membership in Alpha chapter.

Relations of the Alpha of Pennsylvania to the United Chapters have reflected a prevailing liberal arts orientation and, as earlier historians noted, a generally conservative stance. Since its founding, the chapter has ordinarily sent one or more delegates to the Triennial Council meetings. It has also participated in regional or district meetings, but with less regularity. Applications for new chapters have been closely scrutinized. The resulting directions to delegates and communications to the national show a disposition to keep Phi Beta Kappa an elite and liberal arts organization.

Instructions to delegates in 1949 are representative. They assert as a matter of principle that Dickinson's representatives should be "reluctant to admit colleges that are not distinctly liberal in character, to be averse to too rapid an extension of membership, and to be doubtful regarding admission of institutions which have been newly established."

The chapter prided itself on its conservatism in these matters and was vigilant in defense of chapter prerogatives. It rejected proposals of 1931 enhancing the role of the United Chapters in granting charters and argued for retention of a decisive voice by academic chapters. Several examples suggest this attitude. In 1926 Dickinson objected to a ruling by the national that votes favoring creation of a new chapter carried over from one biennium to the next.

A decade later it endorsed a minority report on by-laws revision which opposed transforming the Triennial Council into "a convention of members." The minority report agreed to extend voice but not vote to delegates to the council from the alumni associations. Earlier the Dickinson chapter protested methods used to nominate new chapters and objected when the national secretary had reported to prospective chapters the reservations expressed by chapters which were critical of a nomination. In 1943 the chapter supported proposals to expand therole of the districts in setting policies and in selection of new chapters.

On other issues contacts with the national ran the gamut. Early in the 20s, the chapter dragged its feet but later supported a campaign to raise funds for PBK Endowment. By the end of that campaign, Dickinson's 71 pledges represented a proportion of participation similar to that achieved nationally.

In 1930 the first chapter historian was elected to cooperate in preparation of a national history of Phi Beta Kappa. This project roused the chapter to assemble and bind its own minutes; the two volumes then gathered by the secretary have provided essential documentation for our knowledge of the early history of this chapter.

In 1925 there was embarrassment when the United Chapters reported concern that Dickinson groups were using keys quite similar in design to PBK's. On investigation the key of the Dramatic Club was found to be sufficiently distinctive but that of the Glee Club was regarded as infringing. The Glee Club agreed to modify its insignia. Perhaps with some sense of vindication, the chapter in the following year observed that the key of the Intercollegiate Newspaper Association was a close copy. The annual meeting, therefore, directed its officers to contact the United Chapters in order to "abate the nuisance." The problem again surfaced four years later concerning a key used at the Dickinson School of Law.

Prof. Herbert Wing, Jr., long a chapter stalwart and recurrently a delegate to Triennial Councils, held posts of some significance in the national. In the 1950s, he chaired a committee formed to broaden the readership of The American Scholar; others on the committee were university men. For more than a decade he anonymously underwrote the subscriptions to The American Scholar which junior and mid-senior electees received ostensibly as a gift of the chapter. Also at this time he was a member of a national committee on chapter practices which was preparing a manual for chapter officers. In 1953 he became president of the Atlantic States District and remained active in its affairs until he retired in 1961.

The modern history of chapter management and problems is in contrast to that of the first half century. The earlier period was characterized by remarkable continuity in the chapter offices. The 1939 history pointed out that for the first 50 years only 15 persons held the four major offices. Though considerable continuity prevailed well into the post World War II period, inspection of the list of officers, especially in the last 15 years, shows a sharply different current pattern. Officers still tend to come from faculty who have had relatively long connection with the chapter; but they seldom have been undergraduate members of this chapter, nor do they serve extended terms as officers.

A number of considerations account for decreases in continuity in management. Staff mobility has been greater, the faculty pool is numerically larger, constitutional provisions impose maximum terms of service for most offices, and the faculty is less hierarchically oriented. Consequently there is greater openness in the conduct of chapter affairs. Simultaneously, greater familiarity with the variety of current practices at other chapters has encouraged alteration of procedures and a willingness to try innovations.

The extent to which forces external to Dickinson have influenced campus practices seems to have risen in the last quarter century. This holds for both the College and the chapter. Although the pace of change has quickened, key functions of the chapter remain. Alpha of Pennsylvania has an unchanging commitment to recognition of academic excellence and to procedural equity in consideration of the records of students who have pursued divergent educational programs. As it enters a second century of activity, the chapter gives continuing priority to service to the scholarly community, the promotion of scholarly endeavors, and the maintenance of an effective campus presence.


Warren J. Gates,
Robert Coleman Professor Emeritus of History

*Chapter histories of 1933 by Layman H. Bower and 1939 by Whitfield J. Bell provided a factual and interpretive point of departure concerning the years to 1939. Occasionally their phrasing has been retained in the text of this revision. Chapter minutes, portions of the Wing papers, and other supporting materials in the Dickinson Archives provide the sources. A footnoted version of this text, deposited in the archives, will provide subsequent researchers with citations.